Chapter 1: Country "Livin"
“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” rang through the church.
The choir is just finishing the Lord’s Prayer. The priest who is seated at the far wall of the sanctuary stands and walks to the pulpit. He solemnly peers into the mass of seated parishioners and begins his sermon. His voice echoes loudly as he speaks.
“Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.”
He finally concludes with “For it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Jack and his wife, a couple in their early sixties, are seated in the front pew. They sit with hands folded. Jack appears especially attentive, hanging on every word.
With the service ended, the priest stands at the doorway greeting the parishioners as they leave. Jack and his wife are next in line.
“Thank you Father. Your message was truly inspirational. If only we could all live by those words.”
“Thank you Jack but those are not my words; they are the words of God. I merely pass them on to those who are willing to receive them and act accordingly. The peace of the Lord be with both of you.”
Jack is in the passenger’s seat of a beat up ninety-two Pontiac with his friend Petey driving. Petey is a balding, portly 68 year old. It is early afternoon and they are driving along a desolate country road bordered by woods and farm land. Suddenly, flashing red and blue lights illuminate the rear view mirror.
“Hey, Jack what’s that cop want? He’s right on our ass” exclaims Petey nervously.
Jack turns in his seat to look out the rear window.
“How the fuck should I know? Better pull over!”
They pull over and the cop car pulls behind them. They wait nervously. After a few seconds the cop exits his car and walks up to Petey’s car. He stops momentarily and looks at the large box protruding from the trunk of the car. He then continues to the driver’s window.
“How are you gentleman doing today?”
“What’s the problem officer?”
“What’s in the box in your trunk?”
Jack stares straight ahead in sweaty silence. After a second or two he turns towards the cop and struggles to appear less anxious than he is.
“It’s a television! We’re takin’ it up to a friend.”
“Television, huh? In a box that big?”
“It’s an old one.” Jack interjects.
The cop turns and walks to the back of the car again. He looks over the box once more and returns to speak with Petey.
“Just where exactly are you taking it?”
“We’re takin’ it to Larry up at ‘Larry’s Fishin’ Hole’ a couple miles up the road.”
Immediately the cop strikes a less threatening pose and tone. He smiles.
“Oh, you mean Larry Fine. Known him for years. I take my kids up there fishing now and then. “
He pauses and then continues.
“Anyway, the reason I stopped you is you can’t have that box hanging outta the trunk like that without a flag on it. A piece of cloth will do it. A red piece would be the best.”
The cop looks at the clutter in the back seat of Petey’s car and points to an old shirt lying on the back seat.
“That plaid shirt there, you can use that.”
Jack reaches back for the shirt.
“That’s about it boys and by the way tell Larry that Tim Harbor was asking about him. Have a good day.”
With that the cop gets into his car and drives away. Jack expels a sigh of relief. He gets out of the car and puts the shirt on the protruding box. He reenters the car and they drive away.
“Man that was a close one.”
“What do you mean?” asks Petey.
Jack hesitates and then speaks rather unconvincingly.
“You don’t have the money for a fucking ticket do you?”
Oh, yeah, I know what you mean. Yeah that was a close one” Petey agrees.
After riding for several more minutes, a sign appears in the distance. The sign reads - ‘Sorry - No fish are bitin’ today - Closed for Repairs’. They turn and drive down the long, dirt lane adjacent to the sign. A dust cloud pours from the rear of the car as they drive. It is Sticksville for sure.
Larry appears as a burly, unshaven man with a long scraggy, white pony tail and several missing teeth. He’s got faded tats on both arms - “Nam 68” and “Khe Sanh” and a huge keloid scar on his left cheek. He is sitting in a rocker on his dilapidated porch wearing faded blue jeans and an unbuttoned raggedy, red and black flannel shirt with cut off sleeves. His large, shaggy, red mongrel dog Rusty is lying next to him. He is slowly rocking back and forth as the car approaches. He continues to rock even as Jack and Petey get out of the car.
“You got it here alright I see.”
“Hope it’s gonna work okay after that ride down your road there” replied Petey.
“Oh, it’s gonna work just fine I’m sure” Larry answers confidently with a broad grin.
Petey goes to the trunk and starts to untie the box.
“No, leave ’em on” Jack calls.
“Well, how are we gonna get it out of the trunk and into the house if we don’t untie it?”
“You didn’t tell ’em Jack?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Guess ya wanta make is a surprise, huh?” Larry says with a laugh.
Jack is silence for a moment and then turns to Petey who is standing perplexed and still holding the cord which is securing the box.
“Listen, Petey, there’s no TV in there. Come over here and sit down for a minute.”
Jack motions towards the porch. As they sit proceeds to explain. Petey is silent, in a trance-like state as Jack speaks.
“You gotta be shittin’ me!” Petey exclaims in astonishment as Jack finishes.
“I couldn’t tell you, because I thought maybe you wouldn’t take me up here if I did”
“Probably, wouldn’t have. But guess what, it’s too late now isn’t it? So what happens next?” ” replies Petey.
“Well, we’re gonna get rid of that ‘TV’ now once and for all. If you wanta come along Petey and help that’s okay but if you’d rather just stay here and wait, that’s okay too. Let me tell ya though, it aint gonna be pretty” Larry warns.
“I’m in too deep now. May as well go along for the whole ride. Let’s go” Petey replies with a sigh.
“Petey, we gotta drive down to the pond.”
“No, wait a minute. We can’t just throw it in there. We gotta do some preparin’ first” Larry interrupts.
Jack is surprised.
“What do ya mean?”
Larry points to the dirt path leading to the rear of the house and waves Petey towards it.
“Come on! Pull around the back by the garage. Follow me.”
Petey gives Jack a surprised look and gets back into the car. He slowly drives behind Larry and Jack following them to the garage. It is an old, partially, dilapidated building with hinged doors. Larry swings them open. The walls are lined with old car parts, rusty tools and scrap lumber. In the middle stands a large, commercial style, meat grinding machine.
“What’s that?” exclaims Jack.
“A meat grinder, commercial grade!” Larry answers proudly.
“What’s it for?” asks Petey anxiously. He hopes the answer won’t be what he thinks.
“Get the box outta the trunk and I’m gonna show ya.”
A look of realization spreads over Jack’s face.
“Holy shit!” he exclaims.
“Ya didn’t think we were gonna just throw him in the pond in one piece did ya? I mean my guys a pretty good at eatin’ stuff but they’re not piranhas. If we don’t cut him up it’ll take days. If we do it’ll be minutes” Larry explains.
Petey backs the car up to the garage. He gets out of the car and walks to the trunk and starts to untie the box.
“Is this thing going to handle bones and all?” Jack asks timidly.
“Ya gotta quarter up the leg ones first and then it’ll do ’em just fine” Larry assures him.
“How do you know? “
“Cause I done it before. Let me tell ya how I got this thing in the first place. I usta have a huntin’ buddy, Ralph. We always got a couple of deer every season and sometimes in-between seasons too, if ya know what I mean. Anyway, Ralph was really into making venison sausage so he bought this grinder here. Then about ten years ago the price of the liver that I usta feed the fish with went sky high. So what I did, was after we dressed out our deer I took the guts from ’em and ran ’em through the grinder. Made perfect fish food for free.”
“But the deer guts didn’t have bones did they?”
“No, but I usta run the feet and the left over bones through too and they went just fine.”
“You said it was your buddy Ralph’s machine. How come you got it?”
“Ralph, he hasn’t hunted in five years now. He can’t no more.”
“How so?” asked Jack.
“It seems that poor Ralph was using the grinder and he got his hand caught. It took off all of his fingers includin’ his trigger finger. After that happened he didn’t want no part of this machine and I got it.”
Petey has untied the box. They wrestle the box from the trunk onto the ground and drag it into the garage. Jack untapes the box, opens it and rolls the plastic bag containing the body out. Larry takes a sheet of plywood which was standing against the wall and lays it on the garage floor in front of the grinder. They roll the bag next to the plywood. Jack pulls out a pocket knife and slits open the plastic bag exposing the body. Petey flinches back at the sight. There he was, just as pristine as the day Jack packaged him. Upon seeing the body Larry spontaneously blurts out a grisly compliment to Jack.
“Don’t smell bad at all considerin’ it’s been a bunch of days now. Ya done a real good job. I don’t think an undertaker coulda done as good as you did Jack.”
“Jesus Christ! That’s one of the guys that forced me down to the bank that day. One of those Fireman gang guys. As a matter of fact, he was the boss man” exclaimed Petey.
“He won’t be doin’ any more collecting from ya now, that’s for sure” remarks Larry as they pull the body onto the plywood. Larry goes to the back of the garage and returns with a yellow rain slicker, a shower cap, an old scuba mask and a small electric chain saw.. He points to the body lying on the plywood sheet.
“Strip him down and stand back.”
“Did you ever do this before? To a human being I mean?” Petey asks nervously.
“Can’t say as I have” answers Larry calmly.
Larry looks up at Petey and smiles.
“Ya know what they though, the first time is always the best one!” he replies.
Jack strips the body. Larry then puts on the slicker, mask and cap, starts the saw and begins to dismember the body. After removing one of the arms he points to a pile of plastic leaf bags and calls to jack.
`“Grab one of those bags over there and put it under the machine. Run this through.”
Larry holds up the arm for Jack to take. Jack swallows hard and hesitates. He slowly reaches out for the severed arm.
“Come on man! You didn’t think it was all on me did ya?” snaps Larry.
Jack timidly starts the grinder and follows Larry’s commands. A loud crunching resounds from the machine as it struggles to consume the arm. Within minutes the limb has been spewed into the bag beneath it. An hour passes. Larry and Jack have finished grinding the body. It is all now contained in the plastic bags. Larry has the blood covered plywood sheet leaning against the garage door with his slicker, cap and mask lying next to it. He is washing everything down with a hose. Petey has just finished vomiting at the side of the garage. Larry grins and speaks to Petey.
“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Petey replies with vomit still dripping from his chin.
“Wasn’t so bad! It was fuckin’ awful!”
Larry points to a wheelbarrow and shovel leaning against the side of the garage.
“Tie up the bag so he doesn’t ooze out on the way down and get the wheelbarrow and the shovel.”
He points to a can next to the garage wall.
“Oh yeah! And bring the kerosene can too.”
Petey obliges and they together lift the plastic basg into the wheelbarrow.
“Get his clothes and put ’em on top” commands Larry.
Petey gathers the pile of the dead man’s clothes and puts them on top of the bags in the wheelbarrow.
Larry is still grinning.
“Okay, let’s get down there. It’s already passed their lunchtime.”
Larry pushes the wheelbarrow to the fish pond with Jack and Petey following. Once at the pond he cuts the bag open to reveal the red, pulpy mass it contains. He grabs the shovel from Petey and throws the first shovel full into the pond. The water pools bright red as the particles hit and then within seconds the color disappears as the fish swarm. They voraciously devour every shovel full in an instant. Larry finally throws the last shovel full of the body’s remains into the pond and then washes the remaining few pieces from the bag with a garden hose. He then points to an old, rusty burning barrel.
“Throw his clothes in that barrel over there” he commands.
“We’re gonna burn the clothes. We don’t wanta have any trace of him left, not so much as a fart.”
Jack tosses the pile of the man’s clothes into the barrel and Larry pours some kerosene on them and sets them ablaze. The three men stand silently as flames leap from the barrel.
“Do you think that will get rid of everything for sure?” asks Jack.
“No worryin’. If anything got spilled the rats will take care of it pronto” Larry assures him.